Disgraced former communications minister Dina Pule’s boyfriend, Phosane Mngqibisa, diverted R6m of R15m in sponsorship funds provided by mobile operator MTN for 2012’s ICT Indaba, transferring the money irregularly into a bank account owned by his company, Khemano.
Mngqibisa also benefited irregularly at taxpayers’ expense when the department of communications paid for one or more international trips, including an official trip with Pule to Mexico and the US.
These are two of the key findings in public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report into allegations of impropriety surrounding the controversial ICT Indaba. Madonsela has ordered that Mngqibisa must repay all state money that was “irregularly” diverted to him and has asked Pule’s successor, Yunus Carrim, to conduct an audit to determine how much money must be repaid.
The public protector found that Mnqgibisa siphoned off R15m in MTN sponsorship funds to a bank account belonging to a company called ABR. She also found there was no agreement with ICT Indaba organiser Carol Bouwer Productions for the transfer of a R6m “management fee” to Khemano.
The appropriation of the R6m, or a substantial part of it, constituted “improper enrichment on the part of Mr Mngqibisa’s company and the siphoning of this money was made possible through the surplus funds caused by the unsolicited and unlawful ‘donation’ of R10m from Hon Pule”.
According to Madonsela, there was a “real and not just a potential conflict of interest on the part of Hon Pule regarding her duty to act in the best interest of the department of communications and her loyalty to Mr Mngqibisa on account of their relationship”.
“Faced with divided loyalties, as is always the case in a conflict of interest situation, I am convinced that Hon Pule chose Mr Mngqibisa’s interests above those of the department and, ultimately, the state.”
She found that the department of communications brought Mngqibisa and Khemano to the ICT Indaba without any request to do so from Carol Bouwer Productions, which already had an “execution partner” for the event in the form of Hunta Live, a company that was “eventually elbowed out as Khemano and its subcontractors took over the 2012 ICT Indaba coordination processes”.
In addition, Pule caused the department of communications to benefit Mngqibisa improperly through her “actions and omissions”.
Madonsela has also “requested” that Pule apologise to Carol Bouwer for “subjecting her to a hidden agenda and putting her in an untenable position”. And she wants the former minister to apologise to department of communications staff for “placing them in an unethical position involving persistent lies and deceit”.
At the same time, Madonsela wants Pule to say sorry to parliament for “persistently misleading this august constitutional pillar and never admitting the truth until right at the end”.
The public protector says Pule has “never admitted” to parliament “the full circumstances of what happened”. She should “consider vacating her seat in parliament to minimise the damage caused by her undermining this institution”. She should also apologise to the Sunday Times, which published a series of investigative articles that uncovered the scandal around the ICT Indaba. Pule levied unfounded “persistent insults” against the newspaper.
Madonsela has asked that Pule make good on a promise, made in a meeting on 28 June, that she quantify the money spent by the department of communications on Mngqibisa for international trips the two conducted together and “to ensure every cent is paid back”.
She says Mngqibisa has already repaid an amount of R89 326,35 that was “inappropriately spent” on him by the department of communications during an official visit to Mexico.
She has asked minister Carrim to ensure that the amount owing to the state by Mngqibisa be calculated and reclaimed. She has also asked Carrim to consider commissioning an audit to verify all the trips abroad undertaken by Mngqibisa at state expense while accompanying Pule and to recover this money.
In addition, Carrim should ensure the “expeditious execution” of disciplinary processes against department employees that acting unlawfully and in violation of the public service code of ethics in relation to the ICT Indaba.
Madonsela has also asked the speaker of the national assembly, Max Sisulu, to ensure parliament monitors whether Pule makes good on a promise to repay state funds irregularly spent on Mngqibisa. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media